JAMESTOWN — A lifelong Greene County resident turns 100 on Monday.
And while she’s not giving away her “secret” to living a full life — she is giving away a lifetime of stories.
Iola Burr Creamer, of Jamestown, has always been a storyteller.
In a farm house, east of Bowersville on Sutton Road, her own story begins with her birth — recorded on her birth certificate as 1 a.m. Oct. 13, 1919. But she knows it was actually Oct. 14, 1919.
“I know the 14th is correct,” Creamer said. “I know it has to be because Mom told me what they had done that evening after supper. They raised baby chickens out in the little coops — well when they got too big for the coops they would roost in the trees. So she said after supper that night they went out and caught those chickens and put them in the chicken house. They wouldn’t have done that on Sunday night, I know. So I’m positive it was the 14th — the doctor just got the date wrong.”
Creamer grew up on the farm, with her older brother and sister, and a baby sister two and a half years her junior.
“We always had plenty of baby kittens and puppies and little lambs and little baby chickens,” she said. “[Martha] and I grew up together. By the time we were up any size, Forest and Letha were gone. We always slept together, we fought together and we played together. We had big times.”
Creamer remembers kerosene lamps, wood-burning and coal stoves at home.
“We’d dress by the fire and hurry up the stairway to get to bed,” she said. “In the wintertime, Mom would keep the irons on the stove and we’d wrap an iron up, take it and put it in the bed to warm it up a little bit.”
On Sept. 7, 1925, Creamer started school in Bowersville.
“I rode that first year in a horse-drawn school wagon,” she said. “There was a man by the name of Amy Sutton and he had a son, Roscoe, who sometimes would drive. The wagons belonged to the school; they kept it at their house and used their team of horses.”
Living on the farm meant always having plenty to eat — even during the Depression.
“We didn’t suffer ourselves,” she recalled. “We had our own milk, meat, eggs, chickens. Mom had canned and we always had plenty to eat but I know there were people in the cities that actually suffered, were out of work. But we never wanted for anything.”
She remembers moving to the farm house on Hussey Pike — where the family had electricity for the first time and gravel became blacktop, on which she roller-skated. She remembers the crystal radio set her brother built, moving to Hollingsworth Road, and the telephone on the wall that you had to crank. She remembers the first car her parents drove — a Ford Model T — and the time it was stolen from Jamestown, stripped, and left near Sabina. She remembers all of her teachers’ names, and graduating as salutatorian from Bowersville-Jefferson School in 1937. She remembers her first TV, which came later, after she was married.
Iola Burr married Jim Creamer at 8:30 in the morning on Christmas Day 1938, a Sunday, in the parsonage of the Bowersville Church of Christ.
Their engagement was exactly one week long.
“That morning I got up and told Mom — she was washing, always on Mondays — that we were going to get married on Christmas Day. I said, ‘You and Dad will have to go with me,’ because I wasn’t of age, but Jim was. I was 19 and Jim was 21,” she said.
Creamer said her mother took her to the Boston Store in downtown Springfield to buy her wedding clothes — a new dress, coat, hat, pair of shoes and pair of gloves. They married that morning, had Christmas dinner at Jim’s grandparents, and a wedding dinner Monday night at her parents’.
The two were married for nearly 59 years — Jim died Dec. 4, 1997.
“The happiest day was the day I got married and the saddest day was the day I lost Jim,” Creamer said.
With Jim she spent her “favorite decade” — or decades — raising their babies.
“It lasted a good while,” Creamer said, laughing.
They had six children — Myrna, Frances, Mary, Betheen, David and Lisa — in four decades, with children in school for 35 years. The first two were born in a little log house; the first time she went to a hospital was to deliver her third.
“We were busy, kept the kids busy, that’s for sure,” she said. “When we lived in Bowersville out on the corner there were a lot of little neighbor kids and they had ball games in our yard. The grass was worn but I knew where my kids were.”
Jim and his dad started Creamer Construction, developing streets in Cedarville, building homes in post-tornado Xenia, and adding onto churches all over Greene County.
Creamer remembers the tenseness at church the night after the attack on Pearl Harbor, knowing the country was at war. She remembers buying sugar with a ration stamp — and writing letters to her four brothers-in-law overseas, who eventually all came home. She remembers a school class reunion, finding a TV upstairs to watch the first man walk on the moon. She remembers jumping out of the car in Florida to watch the Challenger launch, taking a Polaroid, not realizing the explosion.
Creamer remembers — as a storyteller must — but she also creates.
Whether spending hours piecing together family history in libraries and courthouses, or piecing together patchwork quilts at home — she is a lifelong creator.
She’s not only written a lengthy book of Creamer history for that side of the family, but she has also sewn for everyone — wedding dresses for daughters, quilts for children and grandchildren, lap quilts for hospice, baby blankets and burp cloths for church, more than 1,200 pieces of clothing for children in Haiti — and she hasn’t quit yet.
At nearly 100, Creamer keeps up with her countless friends on Facebook, and continues her storytelling — now to 21 grandchildren, 52 great grandchildren and 12 great-great grandchildren.
And in-between the lines of her stories, it’s not that she won’t give away her secret to living a long life — she says she doesn’t have one.
“I have been blessed,” she’ll respond, if you ask her about the centennial achievement.
“My cup runneth over,” she’ll continue. “But the best is yet to come.”